Cauliflower is a member of the cabbage
family, Brassica oleracea. Like all cabbages, cauliflower suffers
terribly from overcooking. A properly cooked cauliflower has a pleasant
fresh flavor but when overcooked it turns grey and becomes unpalatably
soft, taking on a nasty rank flavor with an unpleasant aftertaste.
History : Cauliflower is thought to
have come originally from China and thence to the Middle East. The Moors
introduced it to Spain in the twelfth century and from there it found
its way to England via established trading routes. The early cauliflower
was the size of a tennis ball but they have gradually been cultivated to
the enormous sizes we see today. Ironically, baby cauliflowers are now
Varieties : Green and occasionally
purple cauliflowers are available in the shops. The purple variety was
originally grown in Sardinia and Italy but is increasingly grown by
other market gardeners. They look pretty and unusual but are otherwise
similar to white cauliflowers. Dwarf varieties of cauliflowers are now
commonly available in shops, as well as baby white cauliflowers.
Romanescoes : These pretty green or
white vegetables look like a cross between broccoli and cauliflower, but
are more closely related to cauliflowers. They taste very much like
cauliflowers, but since they are quite small, they are less likely to be
overcooked and consequently retain their excellent flavor.
Broccoflower : A cross between
broccoli and cauliflower, this looks like a pale green cauliflower. It
has a mild flavor and should be cooked in the same way as you would
Nutrition : Cauliflower contains
potassium, iron and zinc, although cooking reduces the amounts. It is
also a good source of vitamins A and C.
Buying and Storing : In top
condition, a cauliflower is a creamy white color with the outer leaves
curled round the flower. The head should be unblemished with no black or
discolored areas and the outer leaves should look fresh and crisp. Keep
cauliflower in a cool place for no longer than 1-2 days; after that it
will deteriorate and valuable nutrients will be lost.
Preparing : To cook a cauliflower
whole, first trim away the coarse bottom leaves (leave the inner ones
on, if liked). Very large cauliflowers are best halved or broken into
florets, as the outside will overcook before the inside is tender. Some
people trim away the stalk, but others like this part and only trim off
the very thick stalk at the bottom of the plant.
Cooking : Cauliflowers are excellent
steamed, either whole or in florets. Place in a steamer or colander over
a pan of boiling water, cover and steam until just tender and
immediately remove from the heat. The florets can then be fried in olive
oil or butter for a few minutes to give a lightly browned finish.
When cooking a cauliflower whole, start
testing it after 10 minutes; it should feel tender but still have plenty
of "bite" left in it. Cauliflower is a popular vegetable accompaniment,
either served with just a little butter, or with a tomato or cheese
sauce. it is also good stir-fried with onions and garlic together with a
few tomatoes and capers.
Cauliflower is excellent in salads or used
for crudites. Either use it raw or blanch it in boiling water for 1-2
minutes, then refresh under cold running water. Small cauliflowers and
romanescoes are intended to be cooked whole, and can be steamed or
boiled, covered with a lid, in the minimum of water for 4-5 minutes
until just tender.